Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce

Very nice use of the word "autumnal" here, TJ's. Very nice indeed. Now let's see if you can work the word "vernal" into the title of one of your Spring 2016 products...

If you guys have been reading the blog for a while, you know that Sonia and I love pumpkin (especially Sonia)—and furthermore, despite a recent review or two, that Russ is a pumpkin-hater. On an upcoming podcast episode, though, he makes the very valid point that there are many delicious non-pumpkin items that appear on the shelves of "Pumpkin Joe's" this time of year. This quality product is a prime example of something that might slip through the cracks if you're wearing those pumpkin goggles too tightly.

But not to worry, there's pumpkin in it. It's not strictly a pumpkin product, though. Similar to the recently-reviewed Harvest Salsa and some other pumpkin salsas we've seen, our favorite over-sized orange gourd is blended seamlessly with tomato and butternut squash, among other things. Despite tomato puree and pumpkin puree appearing above butternut squash puree on the ingredients, I still think this tastes more like butternut squash than anything else. Flavor-wise, it's savory, subtle, and it's absolutely scrumptious. There's a beautiful mixture of spices rounding out the taste, including garlic, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and sage. It's a very mild spiciness, though.

As far as texture goes, it's not too thick, and not too thin. It's very creamy and smooth, but the creaminess doesn't get in the way of those harvest veggies, in terms of flavor. Sonia pointed out that some "creamy" sauces have too much cream or milk, and they wind up tasting like a dairy product instead of a pasta sauce, but not here. This stuff is well-balanced in every way. Sonia thinks it would make a great pizza sauce. I can see where she's coming from—if you wanted to try a do-it-yourself "Autumnal Harvest Pizza," this would be the right place to start.

But for now, I think I'll stick with pasta. We had it with some non-TJ's cheese ravioli. It worked perfectly, with the majority of the flavor coming from the pasta sauce, just slightly overshadowing the mostly-neutral tastes of the dough and the cheese blend in the ravioli. I'm really anxious to get to some pumpkin reviews, but this was a condiment I just had to tell you guys about. If you're into traditional harvest flavors, butternut squash or pumpkin soup, this is a must-try.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

The conspiracy grows!

On a recent podcast, I espoused the theory that Nathan and I are just puppets for the Belgian world domination, by stumbling upon all sorts of delicious cookie butter products from Trader Joe's, enticing all of you to buy them. You know exactly how mind-alteringly delicious it is, with that sweet, numb sense of contented complacency that washes over.

What exactly are those tricksy Belgians setting us up for? Who knows? But get this: Now the Canadians are involved! Canada, America's hat - they're in on it now too!

True story: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter is Canadian. Lest anything be lost in translation (too many "eh"s) or exchange rate, our Northern neighbors are doubling down by combining the irresistible force of "pumpkin pie anything" with the relentless pull of "cookie butter!" to make me drool over the prospect, and I don't even own any yoga pants, Uggs, or Taylor Swift albums. There's a limit to my basic.

And listen: I'm not even that big of a cookie butter or pumpkin pie spice guy...but this is too good. Way too good. Evilly good. Goodly evil. It's...it's...it's....very orange. I mean, take a look at it. You wanna know what that is? That's pureed pumpkin, blended right in there, with pumpkin powder to boot, with the classic speculoos spread we've all come to love. Good gourd, y'all. This makes for an even smoother than usual mouthfeel, with a little extra stickiness to linger around a little bit longer, with the crunchy cookie tidbits still very present but a little more sparse. I mean, it's so smooth, I'm almost tempted to see if it'll double as a bath and beauty product.

I'd try that but it's just way too delicious to lather around any other part of me. It's almost surprising how natural the marriage between pumpkin pie and cookie butter really is, if you stop to think about it. There's some spice overlap between the two, but the cookie spread has a good bit of the classic nutmeg/allspice/cloves mix tossed in, with enough pumpkin flavor poking through to have this taste almost like a legitimate pumpkin pie filling. Except it's richer, and cookie-ier, with the unmistakable flavor (shall I say "flavour" since it's Canadian?) of regular cookie butter. This spread strattles the line so close between both classic tastes so well, yet is so balanced and nearly seamless that in a lot of ways it's quite an accomplishment.

Not going to lie: Picked up three jars the very morning this was first available, two for a departmental snacky day at work and one here for the fam. After first taste I wanted to hoard them all to myself. I've eaten way too much of this, either on top of graham crackers or right off a spoon. The unnutritional stats are, well, awful. I don't care. Very, very impressed, and I'm hooked...and I'm usually impervious to this kinda stuff. Not this time.

 I'm sold. Perfect five. Sandy's liking it too, but not to the same extent. "I kinda wish it were more one thing or another," she said. Nope, not me, and I'm hoping that her relative indifference will have her be less mad when she'll invariably discover I left an empty, scraped out jar in the pantry. She can muster only about a 3.5. My only reasonable conclusion: The Belgians and Canadians haven't gotten to her...yet.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats

Happy Friday, everyone! Here's a bonus review for anyone who has dogs. (It's really just an excuse to throw that hot keyword "pumpkin" out there a few more times before the human pumpkin foods roll in.) I mean, sure, Russ has found a few "harvest" items lately, but they're nothing like the "p-word" in terms of search engine love. So here we go, PUMPKIN!

Like other Trader Joe's brand pet treats, Alfred and Sadie loved these. They're too big for small dogs and they're super hard, but our hounds couldn't care less. Also, they don't taste much like pumpkin at all. Do the dogs know that? Do they care? Probably not. Just watch the video. Sorry for the run-and-gun-style shooting, shoddy editing, and poor sound quality. But hey, there are cute puppies and pretty fall pumpkin treat things. Plus, I eat dog food! Again!

For those of you pining for human pumpkin food, hang on, get ready, and stay tuned. There's a pumpkin storm coming that will utterly blow your mind!



If you're interested in the nutrition info for this product, just click here.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10 paw prints.



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Salmon & Vegetable Croquettes

When I was a little kid, my dad brought home some croquettes from the supermarket once. They weren't salmon and vegetable...they were potato and something I think. But anyway, that doesn't matter. And honestly, I don't even remember what they tasted like, but I must have liked them because I remember asking for them more than once. 

I had never heard of a croquette before, but the way I remembered the name was that it was similar to the sound a toad makes: "croak." So the next day I used my (faulty) memory device and asked my dad for another "ribbit."

Silly the things you remember and the things you don't. And one thing I'm not soon to forget is the fishiness of the last salmon product I reviewed or that of the worst salmon product I've ever had. But fortunately for me, this salmon dish is the exact opposite of those fishy salmon dishes. It still tastes like salmon, but with virtually none of the bad kind of fishiness. That is to say, it was quite tasty.

I pan fried mine on the stove top with some coconut spray until they were golden brown on the top and bottom. As per the instructions, I thawed them in the microwave for about 45 seconds prior to the actual cooking. I still think they needed a couple extra minutes in the pan—maybe because my microwave is old and weak. But I trusted my eye instead of following the instructions to the letter, and I wasn't disappointed.

They were slightly crispy on the outside and all the ingredients were nice and soft—almost like crab cakes—in the middle. Flavor-wise, everything was well balanced and delicate. There was a good bit of that high-quality salmon, and it was definitely the main attraction, although the edamame, kale, broccoli, and chia seeds gave it a nice veggie base, with subtle notes of nuttiness.
At first, I thought $5.49 was a bit steep, but if you compare this product to an appetizer at a restaurant, it's not a bad deal. And yes, these croquettes are indeed restaurant-quality, if you ask Sonia or me. The wifey was just as impressed as I was. She really enjoyed this salmon, but also really loved this particular medley of veggies. Double fours here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Fall Harvest Salsa

Hrmmm. Just reading the front label of the brand-spankin' new Trader Joe's Harvest Salsa. Pumpkins. Apples. Butternut Squash. In a "salsa." Riiiight.

Sandy, an excellent photographer who doubles as a savvy shopper, snapped this up just this morning on her weekly TJ's run. I had heard NOTHING about this salsa until she sent me the picture at work of the jar front with our new little copyright in the corner. Nice pic, babe! But all I could see was the jar front, and since I hadn't seen any buzz or any news about it anywhere, here's the word that came to mind: Baby food.

Apples and squash are pretty traditional Gerbery glop, after all. Sure, it might be a little fancier - look, it's an "autumnal mélange" after all - but that's more or less what I expected. More savory, no spicy, kinda meh. Doesn't help that I'm not a huge pumpkin guy anyways. I think before twisting the lid off for the maiden tasting voyage I cracked some some joke about it was going to smell like a vaguely Mexican Yankee Candle.

Yet once again...I was wrong.

Don't let it fool you: Even though pumpkin is the primary ingredient, this is a salsa, first and foremost. Look at the rest of the ingredients: Tomatoes. Tomatillos. Jalapeños. Peppers. With the exception of the lime, I could probably grow everything in my back garden...but I'd never think of mashing them all up together into some Frankensalsa.

In a way, the salsa base is a lot like other Trader Joe's salsa - Cowboy Caviar (minus beans and corn) comes to mind, for instance. It's got that same chunky-spicy-sweet tilt to it - a good enough kick, but not enough to easily offend most palates. For this harvest blend, I'd say that the pumpkin and butternut squash add more body and girth than flavor. To my taste, they do add an earthy dimension, but it seems somewhat offset by a little bit of the spiciness being muted. As for the apples - they add a little crispy sweet angle, though it doesn't stand out. I can't quite figure out what type of apple it is, but it's definitely a tamer variety. There's a little touch of honey to amp up the sugar a little bit more, but in all, it's a very smooth, even flavor.

Honestly, both Sandy and I are pretty impressed by this stuff, and how well it incorporated so many different elements. I originally had planned on taking only a few small bites on tortilla chips as an after-main-course tidbit at dinner, which within a couple minutes turned into one of those "We need to put this away now" type moments we are too prone to. It's not enough to have me divorce my still-favorite salsa, and I'm not sold on how well it'd go over at breakfast on some eggs, but for almost anything else you'd put salsa on, go for it. Sandy mentioned a couple times she thinks it'd pair especially well with some grilled chicken, which I'd second. For a little seasonal variety, this is better than what we had bargained for, and well worth the $2.99 price tag.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fall Harvest Salsa: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend

*Sniff, sniff* Hrmm, what's that smell in the air? Let's see...very late summer, not quite the autumnal equinox, warm days but cool nights, kids back in school...ah yes, must be the beginning on the annual onslaught of what I call "Pumpkin Everything!" season. Ugh. Annual disclaimer time: It's not that I'm anti-pumpkin stuff. I'm just anti- the overabundance of quite literally everything stinkingly possible having some nutmeg and cinnamon tossed on it and it be called a pumpkinpumpkin somethin'somethin'. I get it: basic capitalism. Supply and demand. But still. Let's get a hold of ourselves, people.

Of course, TJ's is no exception. I don't have the time in the day to individually link to everything pumpkin we've ever reviewed, nor the resources to hire an intern to do that menial labor, but there's several dozen, at least. Click here and go scour around if so inclined - chances are, if it's Trader Joe's, and if it's pumpkin, we've done it, or soon will. Thanks, Nathan, for doing most of that.

Despite my gourded enthusiasm about most pumpkin stuff, though, got to admit, I was a little intrigued by one of the newer salad-in-a-bag deals, Trader Joe's Harvest Blend. Maybe it was the success of the kale quinoa deal a little bit ago that whet my appetite, but I can get behind pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin cornbread croutons sound good, and...what the....

Pumpkin vinaigrette? I'm not a big salad dressing guy, but a nice light Italian or regular vinaigrette is okay every once in a while, but is this really something that oughtta be crossbred with anything big and orange that grows on a vine?  I tell you the truth: your entire perception of this salad hinges nearly completely on how you feel about that question.

For me: not sold. Not abhorred either. But...it's kinda weird. As a plus, from what I can tell from perusing the ingredients, there's no cinnamon or nutmeg or any pumpkin-pie like spices added to the dressing itself - it seems to be straight up pumpkin - imagine that! The flavor was kind of uneven - some bites tasted like normal dressing, others tasted like "pumpkin pie on lettuce" to use Sandy's description. Sometimes it even was sharply discordant with the natural greeny bite of the kale and other leafy greens. It's odd, and I probably would have been happier without it, but that'd be disservicing you all.

As for the rest of the salad, it was pretty solid. Good, crisp greens, with some broccoli and carrot slaw for a crunch much like the aforementioned quinoa salad. There weren't quite enough raisins, seeds or chopped dates for my liking, as those added some texture, variety and sweetness, but I didn't feel cheated either. As for those pumpkin cornbread croutons - good enough I'd probably buy just a straight box of them for a snack. They tasted just like a good cornbread, with a little smooch of pumpkin pie taste - I can buy into that. Absolute highlight of the salad right there, though they do get soggy and spongy if you save any for leftovers.

Overall, it seems like a good deal for the $4.49. It's big enough for a dinner salad for two hungry folks, or if used as a side (like we did with some pulled pork using my favorite barbeque sauce), expect leftovers. I'd probably get it again but pitch the dressing - if I'm going to drizzle something on my otherwise perfectly good dinner, I don't want to be indecisive about it. Same with Sandy, who said it could really use some other type of dressing, but other than that, the salad was great. She could only muster about a 2.5 when taking the whole package into consideration. Hrmmm...salad without dressing would be about a 4, with it was about a 2 for me...so let's call it a 3.

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Wild King Salmon Jerky

At about 46:20 of Let's Talk TJ's! Podcast Episode 6, there's a fairly entertaining discourse about the Wild Salmon Jerky Russ reviewed last year. Near the end of that conversation, I volunteered to be the What's Good at Trader Joe's guinea pig for "Salmon Jerky version 2.0." I try to be a man of my word, so yesterday morning I shelled out the $5.49 for the small three ounce bag and "took one for the team," all in the name of intrepid food blogging. 

This uncommon jerky is a new product that no longer uses chum salmon as the primary ingredient, but instead employs the use of regal, fresh, Alaskan king salmon. Some have speculated that chum salmon was also sometimes referred to as "dog salmon" because Alaskan native peoples would only feed it to their sled dogs. Others claim the nickname came from the fish's canine-esque mandibles and many teeth. Either way, it's a fact that chum salmon are commercially undesirable, and so king salmon are a big step in the right direction. And best of all, they're still "wild," or "free range," like the salmon in those fictional breakfast muffins.

But still, this product is amazingly fishy. I mean, it's almost completely made of fish, so I don't know exactly what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking that the jerkifying process would make it significantly less fishy. But no. Still quite fishy. And to add to the fishiness, you can actually see where the scales were on the salmon chunks (see pic). So yeah. Fishy.

Good thing I like fish. My dogs do, too. No matter where in the house I opened this package of salmon jerky, the dogs smelled it immediately and were at my heels, begging for scraps. I mean, sure, they do that for everything, but they seemed especially enthused about this product—probably because of the fairly pungent fishy smell. I'm pretty sure if they were going to score this product, it would get 10 stars. But unfortunately, the humans in the house weren't quite as wowed.

However, I must admit the quality of the "meat" itself is pretty good. There's a nice smoky, spicy, sweet flavor to it. And it does taste like salmon—certainly not the best salmon I've ever had, but not the worst salmon I've ever had either. The texture is pretty close to traditional jerky, although this salmon stuff has a tendency to flake off in little angular chunks, similar to the way a normal fish fillet would. It's also more oily than any other jerky I've had lately. You'll pine for moist towelettes after handling it.

Even if you're a huge fan of the taste and texture, it's a little on the pricey side. I can't see this ever becoming a regular purchase in our house. It's not terrible, though. I'm just glad I'm not the one who tried the version with chum in it. 3 stars from me. Sonia was initially overwhelmed by the fishy smell, but got over it quickly. She gives this product 3.5 stars, and insists that it tastes somewhat like bacon. I'm not sure where she's getting that from. Silly Sonia.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Josephsbrau Plznr

Ah, Princeton, NJ. Once known as an Ivy League town, prided on top-notch schooling and producing some of the nation's elite scholars, engineers, educators, and financiers, has become known to my wife and I as a fun place to go geocaching, and more importantly, Trader Joe's Beverage Central—as it is apparently known to quite a few here in the Mid-Atlantic region, including the Pittsburgh-based Shellys (who don't actually drive 5 1/2 hours JUST to buy Trader Joe's brand alcoholic beverages—they apparently have family in the area). I understand those liberal New Yorkers have quite a few options when it comes to Trader Joe's brand libations, but those of us in South Jersey, Delaware, and the Quaker State have one heck of a time procuring the stuff. It's a little over an hour's drive for us, so we only go when we have other reasons to be in the area. But recently, business took us to Tiger territory...and we found a fascinating brew or two.

And so, it's time for a beer review. In 685 posts on this blog, this is only the fourth post dedicated to actual alcoholic beer, and the first featuring Trader Joe's Josephsbrau label. Five years back, Sonia and I took a look at TJ's Corona Light knockoff and found it to be a pretty decent imitation of the original. On that particular shopping excursion, there had been no full-calorie Corona-esque beers available, and their selection (at least at that location in Los Angeles) was vastly inferior to the selection we find currently at suds-friendly TJ's locations here on the East Coast. And fortunately for me, as my taste in beers has migrated from mass-produced lagers to more interesting craft brews over the last five years, so, apparently, has Trader Joe's selection moved in the same direction.

I'm far from a beer expert, but I know enough about pilsners and beer in general to know that, despite the claims made on the can itself, Miller Lite is NOT a "fine pilsner beer." Just like a brew Russ reviewed many moons ago, pilsners are originally from the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. As I learned on Wikipedia, they were made with soft water, pale malts, noble hops, and bottom-fermenting yeasts. 

Similar to other pilsners I've had, this beer poured a light straw-ish color with a fairly small head of foam. With an average alcohol content (5.4% ABV) the flavor was bready more than malty and there was a sharp bitterness to it. It left a slightly bitter aftertaste, too. It was well-carbonated, but not overly so. If you've been reading this blog a while, you know I LOVE fizzy beverages.

Another interesting note about this product is the peculiar spelling of "pilsner." There are plenty of other acceptable ways to spell the word, but this is the first I've seen "PLZNR." TraderJoes.com claims it's simply because the beer is unique, but I'm wondering if, similar to the band "Chvrches," it has to do with search engine optimization? Both the band and the beer are "not bad" in my humble opinion, but I'd say the unique spellings are strokes of marketing genius. Sonia agrees about the beer, but no so much about the weird spellings.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Dill Pickle Spears

You'll never see me purchase a jar of pickles, even with the recent debut of Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Dill Pickle Spears. It's not me - it's the family. Sandy refuses to touch, let alone attempt to consume, anything like a pickle, or even anything that's even touched a pickle - this had led to some interesting dinner time dill-emmas and dissections when out at a restaurant. Best case scenario: I get an extra pickle! Worst case: Waitstaff eyerolls abound. As for our toddler, Lil Ms. M.? Well, in her words: "I wicked a pick-kull once but I didn't wike it." That's a true story, I wish I would have captured that grimace for all of time. Baby B, who's started eating some table food, has tried a pickle and seemed to like it; then again, she somehow got a hold of a lemon slice and loved it, so I think she's still honing her palate. I mean, she also likes rocks, for goodness sake.

So, I'm grateful for my brother and sister-in-law, and their kiddos, all of them pickle aficionados, for dropping the $2.39 at TJ's for a jarful right before we came over for a Labor Day grill out. That way I got to try them without plopping down the cash, knowing it'd probably ultimately go to waste since I'm the only one in the household who would touch them.

Alright, so anyways....yeah, a jar of pickles isn't as flashy or eyecatching as, say, bags of pickley popcorn that all of you seem to love. I mean, there's not all that much one can do to a pickle to make it stand out all that much, is there? That's probably right, but...these do seem a little different than most I'm used to. There's a little added sweetness that must be from the cucumbers themselves - it's not overpowering, or even completely obvious, but to me, it's there. Most cucumber bases for pickles either taste like a pretty straightfoward cuke - kinda bland in a wholesome way - or get over-saltied or vinegaried. Not these. The dill and garlic are also there as a good accompanient but aren't all that dominant, either. Instead, these pickles just taste good and fresh, with a crunchy, firm bite. Eat right from the jar or snuggle up in a bun with a  hot dog, these guys are good to go.

That being said....There's a particulary perplexing pickly problem here, especially if you're a serving size stickler. Look at it: A serving is 3/4th's of a spear. What!?!?!?! The only reasonable explanation is the sodium - if my math isn't too fuzzy, if 3/4ths a spear is 12% of suggested sodium intake, a full spear is 16%, and just maybe that number would scare off too many potential suitors. I call shenanigans on that. Look: No one's going to lop off a little middlin' pickle stub. You're going to eat one, if not more. And pickle people know what they're into when it comes to pickles and sodium - there's a lot of it. We deal with it. Don't jerry-rig the serving size to make them appear to be not as salty as they are. It strikes me as dishonest.

Aside from that, no real complaints here. It's as good a jarred pickle as any out there, unless you're one of those silly ones who prefer bread-and-butter pickles (ick) or whatnot. The consensus of the pickle choir around the picnic table, young and old, was that these were a worthwhile pick-up, maybe not quite as good as fresh made deli pickles, but for a shelf-stable-til-opened jar, pretty good. I'll take some liberties in score guesstimating, but I'm probably not too offbase.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Dill Pickle Spears: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Podcast Episode 7: Shopping Strategies and Our TJ's Staples



In this episode we share how we shop at Trader Joe’s and what products we regularly buy. Listen to us on Stitcher.

RSS: letstalktjs.libsyn.com/rss

Download: MP3 (23.1 MB)

Opening Music: www.bensound.com

Show notes: www.letstalktjs.com/7-2/



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trader Joe's Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread


In theory, a guy like me should like hockey. Preseason is only a couple weeks away, I should be stoked like all the other XY-chromosomed humanoids (and half the XX ones too, at least around here in the 'burgh). Yet....I'm not. I've tried to like hockey, and in fact I like the theory of it. I've been to a couple Penguins in person, and no sport translates better to the in-person experience than hockey (worst, by far: football). But when it comes to actually truly liking and embracing hockey....I just can't. I'm not sure what it is, and maybe I'm just missing out on something that everyone else is picking up on, but it just doesn't do it for me.

It's kinda the same with Trader Joe's Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread. In theory, this should be a no doubt winner, a hat trick, a biscuit in the basket. As our local hockey announcer would say, get in the fast lane, grandma, this bingo game's ready to roll.  But in the end.....meh.

Let's start with the positives. This is one exceptional flat thin crust for the pizza base. It's light and airy, yet crispy and crackery, with a little added bite. I could eat crust like this all day then wonder what happened to my waistline. And the arugula makes a nice little touch, too - I like leafy greens as much if not more than anyone (my coworkers stare in disbelief at the amount of raw, undressed spinach I eat almost every day for an afternoon snack) and there's plenty enough to go around to add a good little touch of greenery in most every bite.

This leaves the prosciutto and the burrata and other assorted cheeses. Anything cured meat related is usually right up my alley, but this meat just doesn't cut it. It comes packaged separately in some frozen thin sheets (think Steak-Umm style) which thaw out on your counter as the pizza bakes, waiting to be torn up and placed on top when ready to serve. That method works, but any prosciutto flavor just doesn't really come through except a thin trace of saltiness. I'll blame the cheese(s) - according to the ingredients list (which I'll link to, my pictures came out awful), there's six here: burrata, mozzarella, mascarpone, pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano, and fontal. It sounds like a nice and fancy blend - I'd butcher half the names - but the outcome just isn't that great. It just tastes kinda flat, without too much flavor except a little olive-oily and salt, with some faint garlic, and more or less feels spongy on most bites. Once again, perhaps my tongue isn't sophisticated enough to enjoy the complexities of a fine cheese meld like the stuff on here, but, once again, meh.

But I guess I'd understand people liking this a lot. Like Sandy, for instance. The fact this was a fairly acceptable white pizza-esque consumable good was a big plus for her- no tomato sauce! Not like that dissuades her from enjoying regular pizza, but, anyways. The arugula and crispy crust were also a hit with her, enough to make this a desired repeat buy for the $4.99 it cost, though she'll admit there wasn't much memorable about the cheese mix except how fancy it sounded. Sandy went ahead and gave it a four. That's just too high for me - not enough flavor to really compel me, and when the absolute highlight of a pizza is the crust, I think it says more about the pizza as a whole than the crust. I just can't muster much more than a perfectly middlin' 2.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing

RoostersDragonsBBQ SauceJerkyPotato ChipsWontons...

The sriracha craze is still going strong, and I'm still learning new things about the mysterious Thai hot sauce. Like...you don't pronounce the first "r" in "sriracha" (Thanks, Marvo!) and that there's a heated East Coast/West Coast debate about whether to always capitalize the "s" at the beginning of the word or not. Since I'm blogging from the East Coast, I'll go ahead and follow the example set for me by The New York Times and not capitalize it in this review. Not that anyone cares or that it at all matters.

What does matter is that this dressing rocks. Finally, good old 'Murican ranch dressing has found its true calling in the form of a sriracha derivative. And I don't even like traditional ranch all that much.

But I do like sriracha...in fact, I LOVE sriracha. "Well, why don't you marry it?" you ask..? Because our country isn't that progressive yet. And as a political moderate, I only support civil unions between man and food.

Plus, I'm already married. Sonia might get jealous. In spite of that, I do have a pet nickname for this salad dressing. I call it "Srirancha." See what I did there? And like Russ, I'll be demanding royalties if that word ever winds up on the label of a future sriracha ranch product.

It's spicy more than it's ranchy or creamy, taste-wise. Although the texture is nice and smooth, like a good quality, traditional, non-sriracha ranch. It was actually hot enough that Sonia had to slow down from time to time and let her mouth recover. I didn't think it was quite that hot—it was just about perfect for me. It had a nice strong kick, but it wasn't overwhelming. It went great with those Portobello Mushroom Fries and even made them quite pleasing to my anti-mushroom palate. It's absolutely perfect with carrots and other dippable veggies, and it even goes great on...you guessed it! Salads!

Sonia loves this product almost as much as I do. It's one of the best dressings I've had in a long time. It's organic, delicious, and reasonably-priced at $2.99. We're gonna go with double 4.5's on this one. Sriracha + ranch = scrump dilly.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.